Together for Alaska uses grieving widow to attack Coghill


When Brandy Johnson’s husband was killed by gunfire on May 1, 2014, she and her three daughters were left grieving and without health coverage.

That’s because her husband was Sgt. Scott Johnson, an heroic Alaska State Trooper, and his health care benefits ended along with his life when he was shot while responding to a call in Tanana with fellow trooper Gabriel Rich, who also died that spring day.

Gov. Sean Parnell responded quickly to the situation and directed the state to pay health care benefits for the widow and her children, at a cost of about $66,000 a  year. They continue to this day.

Now, Johnson is being used in Together for Alaska’s latest savage political attack ad against Sen. John Coghill.

In the ad, Mrs. Johnson infers that Coghill is what’s wrong with the system that left her and her children without health coverage.

Except that they weren’t without coverage. Parnell made sure of that.



Together for Alaska, funded by a union under the umbrella of the AFL-CIO and Gov. Walker’s surrogate lawyer Robin Brena, are using the same scorched earth tactic that Mark Begich used against now-Sen. Dan Sullivan, when Begich rolled out a patently false portrayal of Sullivan’s culpability in the Jerry Active murder case.

It backfired on Begich badly.

There’s no disputing the tragedy in Tanana reverberates through the lives of survivors, who will feel the pain for the rest of their lives, as their beloved family members never return to the family table.

But Brandy Johnson has been transformed into blunt instrument against a man of character, principle and faith; a man who has always tried to do the right thing for the people of Fairbanks.

Her grievance is House Bill 66, which didn’t pass the Legislature last session. HB 66 would change current state retirement policy and provide health care coverage for families of those killed in the line of duty, until they can claim retirement benefits. The children of the deceased law enforcement officer would have health care coverage until age 26, covered by the State of Alaska.

The tug of war over the bill happened mainly in the House, because the bill had some problems.

Coghill’s only interaction with the bill was in trying to squeeze it into SB 91, the criminal justice reform bill. Lawyers said that violated single subject rule.

The remedy? Have the bill introduced again this session. Make it a single subject bill. Help it be the right bill that passes a constitutional test. Ask the Fairbanks delegation to introduce it.

Instead, Together for Alaska has taken advantage of a grieving widow. Brandy Johnson has received her benefits for two years, and there’s no reason to think she will not continue to receive her benefits far into the future.

In fact, if she wanted these benefits to be codified, rather than part of the operating budget, she needs only to prevail upon Gov. Bill Walker to promulgate regulations, which he could do in a heartbeat. Why doesn’t he? Perhaps he prefers the pomp of an actual bill.

The tragedy of Sgt. Johnson and Rich’s deaths touch us Alaskans deeply, but dividing Alaskans in this way is something that Together for Alaska has gotten away with for months.

Who will call Together for Alaska Chairman Tom Wescott, and main funders lawyer Robin Brena and Union Boss Joey Merrick out on this video, which is intended to prop up support for Democrat Luke Hopkins through treachery?

We will — it’s beneath them and it’s an affront to all that Alaskans stand for.